MasterCard cardholders alone spent a whopping US$1.5 billion during Great Singapore Sale 2013

MasterCard cardholders spent  a whopping US$1,491.4 million during the Great Singapore Sale 2013 (GSS2013), held from 31 May to 28 July 2013. Singapore MasterCard cardholders contributed to the bulk of the MasterCard receipts, spending US$1,034.7 million – or a 11.3% increase – from a year before in 2012 (25 May – 22 July 2012). The number of transactions by Singapore MasterCard cardholders grew 11.1% to 9.2 million.

GSS Shopping with MasterCard
GSS Shopping with MasterCard

These are really impressive figures, considering the haze that struck during the GSS period and the uncertain economic outlook which would have curbed spending. Rachel and I  made our own small contribution to the total spending, shopping with MasterCard during the GSS. 

GSS Shopping with my wife and son
GSS Shopping with my wife and son

Growth in overall spend during the GSS, including spend by visiting MasterCard cardholders, held steady at 5.7%, with the number of transactions increasing by 12.1% to 12.0 million compared to a year before. While spend by visiting MasterCard cardholders dipped by 4.8% to US$456.7 million during GSS2013, transactions grew 15.7% to 2.8 million. Cardholders from Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and China emerged as the top five spenders for GSS2013.

Online spending on MasterCard cards for the same period grew 25.6% to US$326.7 million – accounting for close to a quarter of total spend – while the number of transactions online grew 25.5% to 3.7 million.

MasterCard continues the impetus for contactless payments in Singapore – with the total number of transactions with contactless payments (MasterCard PayPass) growing by almost four times in the first half of 2013 (January – June 2013) compared to the same period a year before. MasterCard contactless payments in Singapore was first launched in 2011.

Expenditure & no. of transactions – overall

  2013 2012  % change 
Overall spend (US$ million)  $1,491 $1,410 +5.7
Overall no. of transactions  12,027,807 10,727,374 +12.1

Expenditure & no. of transactions – breakdown by Singapore and visiting cardholders

  2013 2012  % change 
Singapore cardholdersSpend (US$ million)

 

$1,035 $930 +11.3
Singapore cardholdersNo. of transactions

 

9,217,196 8,298,528 +11.1
Visiting cardholdersSpend (US$ million)

 

$457 $480 -4.8
Visiting cardholdersNo. of transactions

 

2,810,611 2,428,846 +15.7
Top 5 markets in terms of visiting MasterCard cardholders:
Market
Total spend (US$)
% change vs corresponding period in 2012
No. of transactions
% change  vs corresponding period in 2012
Australia
(1st last year)
$56.6 million
-16.8
342,620
+17.7
Malaysia
(4th last year)
$44.8 million
-0.5
269,230
+24.3
Indonesia
(3rd last year)
$41.9 million
-11.8
225,991
+1.7
Japan
(5th last year)
$36.0 million
-17.0
254,939
+7.7
China
(6th last year)
$31.4 million
+22.5
180,313
+42.6

 

Top categories of retail spend by tourists from top 5 markets (excluding spend on accommodation and airfare):

Market (Top spend category) Spend (US$)  No. of transactions
Australia – Department Stores $3.3 million 33,384
Malaysia – Computers, Computer Peripheral Equipment and Software $3.3 million 3,603
Indonesia – Department Stores $3.6 million 21,741
Japan – Miscellaneous and Speciality Retail Stores $2.6 million 24,961
China – Miscellaneous and Speciality Retail Stores $3.7 million 22,555
  • Visitors from Australia remain top foreign spenders in Singapore during GSS2013, with visitor spending from China taking U.S.’ spot in top five
  • Australian and Indonesia MasterCard cardholders spent most at Department Stores
  • Computers and Computer Peripheral Equipment and Software was the most popular spend category among Malaysian MasterCard cardholders during GSS2013
  • Japanese and Chinese MasterCard cardholders were big on Speciality Retail items

About MasterCard Worldwide

MasterCard (NYSE: MA), www.mastercard.com, is a technology company in the global payments industry. MasterCard Worldwide operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.

Platypus Kitchen @ Bugis Junction

Platypus Kitchen at Bugis Junction
Platypus Kitchen at Bugis Junction

Platypus Kitchen is currently on my list of favourite restaurants. It is one of three restaurants under the Platypus group of restaurants, founded by young chef and cookbook author, Nicholas Lin.

Nicholas Lin's cookbook - Bachelor's Banquet
Nicholas Lin’s cookbook – Bachelor’s Banquet
Nicholas signing his books for fans at Platypus Kitchen
Nicholas signing his books for fans at Platypus Kitchen

Platypus restaurants are casual Mediterranean bistros, specialising in hand-made pastas and gourmet risottos. The restaurants serve up seasonal gourmet cuisine at affordable prices.

Nicholas has a few key philosophies for his restaurants:

– Fresh produce
– Seasonal ingredients
– No gimmicks
– Affordable gourmet

Prices are kept reasonable by sourcing and using local ingredients and what is in season.

Nicholas made it a point to keep all the items in his menu at under S$20 – this despite the fact that his dishes feature premium ingredient like saffron, caviar and scallops.

He also promise diners that “what you see is what you get” on the menu. All the dishes are plated beautifully. If they do not tally with the pictures in the menu, you can send the items back to the kitchen.

Platypus Kitchen offers a large selection of hand-made pastas and risottos. Pastas are all made fresh daily and contain no additive preservatives.

These are the items I have tried at Platypus Kitchen:

SPICY ‘DIABLO’ CRAB & PRAWN (Egg Tagliolini with prawns and crab claw tossed in a spicy egg sauce) - S$18.50
SPICY ‘DIABLO’ CRAB & PRAWN (Egg Tagliolini with prawns and crab claw tossed in a spicy egg sauce) – S$18.50
SQUID-INK SCALLOP RAGOUT (Squid-ink Tagliolini served with seared bay  scallops in a light garlic-sauce) - S$16.50
SQUID-INK SCALLOP RAGOUT (Squid-ink Tagliolini served with seared bay scallops in a light garlic-sauce) – S$16.50
SAFFRON & CAVIAR RISOTTO (Saffron infused risotto with char-grilled prawns and scallops then finished with sustainable caviar and fine herbs) - S$19.90
SAFFRON & CAVIAR RISOTTO (Saffron infused risotto with char-grilled prawns and scallops then finished with sustainable caviar and fine herbs) – S$19.90
TRUFFLE CARBONARA TAGLITELLE (Egg Tagliatelle with double-smoked bacon and mushrooms in a truffle egg-yolk sauce) - S$16.50
TRUFFLE CARBONARA TAGLITELLE (Egg Tagliatelle with double-smoked bacon and mushrooms in a truffle egg-yolk sauce) – S$16.50
Salad, drink and soup that comes with a set meal
Salad, drink and soup that comes with a set meal
PRESSED PORK BELLY (Melt in your mouth pork belly served with  braised apples, garden vegetables and a honey & clove apple glaze) - S$19.90
PRESSED PORK BELLY (Melt in your mouth pork belly served with braised apples, garden vegetables and a honey & clove apple glaze) – S$19.90
RISOTTO BALLS (Mozzarella-stuffed balls of risotto, breaded  in panko then deep fried and served over of rich pumpkin puree) - S$8.90
RISOTTO BALLS (Mozzarella-stuffed balls of risotto, breaded in panko then deep fried and served over of rich pumpkin puree) – S$8.90
CRAB CAKES (Three potato fritters stuffed with large  chunks of crab claw meat, deep fried and served with lemon) - S$12.90
CRAB CAKES (Three potato fritters stuffed with large chunks of crab claw meat, deep fried and served with lemon) – S$12.90
TRUFFLE FRIES (Thick cut French fries seasoned with white  truffle oil and topped with shaved truffles) - S$6.90
TRUFFLE FRIES (Thick cut French fries seasoned with white truffle oil and topped with shaved truffles) – S$6.90
SEA SALT CARAMEL - S$5.90
SEA SALT CARAMEL – S$5.90
SMITH'S ALE and MOMO-LYCHEE ALE - S$9.90 each
SMITH’S ALE and MOMO-LYCHEE ALE – S$9.90 each
You can see the fresh ingredient in the ales
You can see the fresh ingredient in the ales

It is very hard to find a good restaurant with all these factors – 1) convenient location (Bugis Junction); 2) quality food (gourmet pasta and risotto); 3) affordable pricing (all dishes are under s$20); 4) cosy ambient (restaurant can comfortably accommodate 100 pax). Platypus Kitchen fits all these criteria.

I frequent the restaurant and would also recommend it to others. Go try it. 🙂

Platypus Kitchen

Address: #03-29, Bugis Junction, 200 Victoria Street
Phone: 6333-4434
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun, 12:00 – 22:00

[Book Review] Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Book Cover
Book Cover

Singapore is a fast becoming a nation of widening wealth disparity. In the 2013 World Bank report, Singapore has the highest income inequality compared to the economically-developed OECD countries.

Such trends disturb me.

There seem to be two Singapore we live in – one where the mega-rich can live it up and enjoy life to the fullest at our two world-class integrated resorts and the exclusive yacht front residential at Sentosa Cove; the other where old folks scrap by for a living, collecting old cardboards and newspapers in HDB estates, living in rented one room flats.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America was written from the author’s perspective as an undercover journalist, taking on the role of a minimum wage worker in capitalist United States. The events related in the book took place between 1998 and 2000, but I believe are still very much relevant in today’s context of even widening income gaps due to globalisation.

Here is a summary of the book via Wikipedia:

Ehrenreich investigates many of the difficulties low wage workers face, including the hidden costs involved in such necessities as shelter (the poor often have to spend much more on daily hotel costs than they would pay to rent an apartment if they could afford the security deposit and first-and-last month fees) and food (e.g., the poor have to buy food that is both more expensive and less healthy than they would if they had access to refrigeration and appliances needed to cook).

Foremost, she attacks the notion that low-wage jobs require unskilled labor. The author, a journalist with a Ph.D. in cell biology, found manual labor taxing, uninteresting and degrading. She says that the work required incredible feats of stamina, focus, memory, quick thinking, and fast learning. Constant and repeated movement creates a risk of repetitive stress injury; pain must often be worked through to hold a job in a market with constant turnover; and the days are filled with degrading and uninteresting tasks (e.g. toilet-cleaning and mopping). She also details several individuals in management roles who served mainly to interfere with worker productivity, to force employees to undertake pointless tasks, and to make the entire low-wage work experience even more miserable.

She decries personality tests, questionnaires designed to weed out incompatible potential employees, and urine drug tests, increasingly common in the low wage market, arguing that they deter potential applicants and violate liberties while having little tangible positive effect on work performance.

She argues that help needed signs do not necessarily indicate a job opening; more often their purpose is to sustain a pool of applicants in fields that have notorious rapid turnover of employees. She also posits that one low-wage job is often not enough to support one person (let alone a family); with inflating housing prices and stagnant wages, this practice increasingly becomes difficult to maintain. Many of the workers encountered in the book survive by living with relatives or other persons in the same position, or even in their vehicles.

She concludes with the argument that all low-wage workers, recipients of government or charitable services like welfare, food, and health care, are not simply living off the generosity of others. Instead, she suggests, we live off their generosity:

When someone works for less pay than she can live on … she has made a great sacrifice for you …. The “working poor” … are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone. (p. 221)

The author concludes that someday, low-wage workers will rise up and demand to be treated fairly, and when that day comes everyone will be better off.

And we wonder how what triggered the Occupy Wall Street movement?

When I was reading this book, I think back about my experience doing part-time hourly wage job as a teen and all the dirty, manual grunt work I had to do as a NSF. These works were no less tedious than what I am doing now, granted that they were works with low barrier to entry, compared to my current job where specialised knowledge is needed.

Simply put, I believe a road sweeper works just as hard and contribute as much, if not more to society than a Wall Street banker, but the income disparity between the two is staggering and growing wider each day.

I find it uncomfortable and disconcerting.

Nickel Dime is a good read to discover what happens when these two worlds collide (the author has a PhD and is from a relatively affluent background, taking on menial, minimum wage jobs, typically taken by poor migrant workers).

The narrative is simple and engaging. Critics of the book deemed the author to be too pampered and believe others would have fared better than her if they went through the same experiment.

Overall, it is a good and educational read for all ages to learn more about the world we live in. I would recommend it.

Oasis Taiwan Porridge (海京楼台湾粥) @ Toa Payoh Town Park

Having a meal at Oasis Taiwan Porridge restaurant is like a walk down memory lane. The restaurant has been in business for more than 38 years and is now located Toa Payoh Town Park, opposite HDB Hub and next to Toa Payoh Swimming Complex. It was previously located next to the Singapore Indoor Stadium and opposite the old National Stadium.

The restaurant location is interesting, tucked in a small estate park with outdated landscaping, bamboos, willow tress and man-made ponds. Walking around the surrounding reminds me of Singapore in the 80s when I was growing up:

Oasis Porridge restaurant at Toa Payoh Town Park
Oasis Taiwan Porridge restaurant at Toa Payoh Town Park

The restaurant decor and menu also look similarly dated with an old world charm These add to the homely appeal of the restaurant since it’s signature dishes are all simple home-cook dishes.

Entrance with large red lanterns
Entrance with large red lanterns

I ate there recently with my family. These are the dishes we ordered:

Oasis Special Beancurd (with generous chye poh topping)
Oasis Special Beancurd (with generous chye poh topping) – S$10
Braised goose meat (S$16)
Braised goose meat (S$16)
Chye Poh omelette (S$7)
Chye Poh omelette (S$7)
Dong Bo Rou (S$15)
Dong Bo Rou (S$15)
Sweet and sour pork (S$12)
Sweet and sour pork (S$12)
3 types of eggs with spinach (S$10)
3 types of eggs with spinach (S$10)

The bill came up to over S$100 for a group of five adults and one baby. You can find most of their dishes at regular porridge stalls in hawker centres at a fraction of the cost. Hence some would consider the restaurant expensive.

I find the prices alright for a restaurant setting. Do watch for the added “hidden” charges like pickles, peanuts, tea and wet towels which can add up to quite a bit. These are optional items which you can request the wait staff to remove.

Overall, the food quality was not bad. The goose meat was really good and goes done well with the sweet potato porridge.

Oasis Taiwan Porridge (海京楼台湾粥)

Address: Toa Payoh Town Park, 303 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh
Phone Number: 6346-4418
Opening Hours: Daily, 07:00 – 15:00 and 17:30 – 06:00

Jamie’s Italian @ VivoCity

The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver has finally opened his first restaurant in Singapore. For those unfamiliar with him, James Trevor “Jamie” Oliver, is a British chef, restaurateur, media personality, known for his food-focused television shows, cookbooks and more recently his campaign against the use of processed foods in national schools.

Jamie's Italian at VivoCity
Jamie’s Italian at VivoCity

Many look to him as an advocate for great-tasting, healthy, fresh and unprocessed food.

Rachel and I were looking forward to visit Jamie’s Italian when we knew it was opening at VivoCity. Last weekend, we visited the restaurant together with Asher and two of our friends.

These are the food we sampled:

Creamy pumpkin panzerotti with ricotta, chizzi and topped with crispy sage Ang amaretti S$27
Creamy pumpkin panzerotti with ricotta, chizzi and topped with crispy sage Ang amaretti – S$27
Black Angel Spaghetti (Squid ink pasta, scallops, garlic, chilli, anchovies, wine & capers) - S$24.50
Black Angel Spaghetti (Squid ink pasta, scallops, garlic, chilli, anchovies, wine & capers) – S$24.50
Seafood Bucatini (Tubular spaghetti steamed in a bag with crab, mussels, clams, squid, scallops, capers, chilli, garlic, white wine & juicy sweet tomatoes) - S$29.50
Seafood Bucatini (Tubular spaghetti steamed in a bag with crab, mussels, clams, squid, scallops, capers, chilli, garlic, white wine & juicy sweet tomatoes) – S$29.50
Chargrilled Italian sausage and braised lentils dressed up with salsa Rosso Crudo - S$29
Chargrilled Italian sausage and braised lentils dressed up with salsa Rosso Crudo – S$29
Lamp Chop Lollipops (Bone-in grilled lamb chops served with a creamy artichoke & mint sauce, roasted nuts, chilli & fresh mint) - S$29.90
Lamp Chop Lollipops (Bone-in grilled lamb chops served with a creamy artichoke & mint sauce, roasted nuts, chilli & fresh mint) – S$29.90

The bill came to around S$189 for 4 adults and 1 baby. A little on the steep side. I like the presentation of the food and the whole dining experience.

The pumpkin raviola that Rachel ordered was lovely. I found my squid ink spaghetti unmemorable. My other two friends commented the same about their mains. Overall, the food quality is okay, but it did not wow us. Maybe the Jamie Oliver brand name stretched expectations.

For parents who have trouble getting their kids to eat vegetables, Jamie’s Italian’s kids’ menu will be helpful as it is designed to make eating veggies fun:

Kids get a colouring paper and crayons. The menu is in the visor Rachel is looking at.
Kids get a colouring paper and crayons. The menu is in the visor Rachel is looking at.
Happy Fishfingers (Fish fight friendly fish fingers with zingy lemon mayo) - S$11.50
Happy Fishfingers (Fish fight friendly fish fingers with zingy lemon mayo) – S$11.50
Salad for Asher
Salad for Asher that’s part of the kid’s meal
Asher shaking his salad
Asher shaking his salad
Asher enjoying his food
Asher enjoying his food

Asher is a strange boy though. He prefers eating fruits and vegetables to meat and staples. Maybe he is born a herbivore.

I would recommend the restaurant for group dining and for family with kids, just for the experience itself. The queues are still long at the moment, so I suggest waiting a couple of months more for the hype to die down. We waited about half an hour to get a table.

Jamie’s Italian

Address: #01-165/166/167, Vivocity, 1 Harbourfront Walk
Opening Hours: Daily, 11:30 – 23:00

Stupid Things People Ask – Tee-Shirts

Mr White via email:

I want to know whether you can have blank tee shirts for sale?

Brand ::Gildan
Size ::Adult Small
Color ::500 White and 500 Army Green
::50/50 % Cotton/Polyester
Qtys ::1000

Can you kindly let me know the total cost…

Thank you

Rely from me via email:

Hi Eddie,

Thanks for enquiring and putting faith in me to start a tee-shirt printing business.

To buy a tee-shirt printing machine plus ink, this will cost me about S$1000 (based on prices I checked online).

Tee-shirts are sold at S$20 a piece. Labour cost will be S$10,000 since I have to hire someone to do this. I will also need to rent a factory at around S$15,000.

Total cost will be (S$20 x 1000) + S$10000 + S$1000 + S$15000 = S$46,000.

Would you like to pay by cash, cheque or credit card?

Thank you.

Best regards,
Alvin

Mr White’s reply via email:

I just need a Gildan blank tee shirts only can you let me know the total cost 1000 blank tee shirts of 500 White Tee Shirts and 500 Army Green Tee Shirts with shipping to the address below : ::
111 TUDOR PLACE # 1D
BRONX
10452
NY

Me via email:

Dude… seriously?

Home-brewed goodness with NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto

I got a NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto® Melody Automatic in my home a few months back. Other than gourmet coffee, the machine can also brewed a variety of 15 assorted beverages like lemon tea and peach tea.

It is also able to dispense drinks that are hot or cold!

The machine has integrated into my family life and routine. My two year son loves it the most.

Even though Asher is too young to drink tea or coffee, he loves to see the Dolce Gusto Melody Automatic at work. I taught him how to operate it and it has become his hobby to make coffee and tea for everyone who visit our house.

See how easy it works:

Every time someone visits, he will approach the guest and ask “你要喝茶吗 (Do you want tea)?”

Asher picking out which tea or coffee to serve to our guests
Asher picking out which tea or coffee to serve to our guests

Every morning when I wake up, he will ask me: “ 爸爸,你要喝咖啡吗 (Dad, do you want coffee)?”

Preparing iced peach tea for me
Preparing iced peach tea for me

In the afternoon or in the evening, he will ask me if I want tea.

A two-year-old can operate the Dolce Gusto Melody Automatic
A two-year-old can operate the Dolce Gusto Melody Automatic

Sometime, I will be “pressurized” by Asher to drink up to three cups of gourmet beverages a day!

Asher watching the machine
Asher watching the machine

I like the simplicity of the Nescafe Dolce Gusto Melody Automatic. It is so easy to use that even a two year old boy can operate it (disclaimer: it doesn’t say so on the manual. Asher makes beverages with the machine under our supervision to ensure he do not get scalded or upset the machine).

Tada! The drink is ready!
Tada! The drink is ready!
Love the froth
Love the froth

The capsules used to be also available for sale at limited places, but they are now available at NTUC supermarket which makes it very convenient for replenishing. You can also order the capsules online. 

On a hot day, I appreciate a frothy glass of iced peach tea or iced cappuccino:

 

On rainy days when I want to snuggle in at home with a hot cup of latte macchiato or mocha:

 

On mornings when I need to perk up, a shot of espresso will do the job.

The Nestle Dolce Gusto Melody Automatic is one machine with many functions, enriching our lives in so many ways. 🙂

All about the machine

The NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto® stands above the competition as the only single-cup coffee machine which delivers a professional 15 bar pressure, guaranteeing a perfect cup and fine milk froth every time. It prepares each drink variety, Hot or Cold, in a matter of seconds. The NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto® coffee machine comes complete with a 2-year warranty from KRUPS®.

This unique machine combines the expertise and history of NESCAFÉ® coffee making with innovative KRUPS® know-how, engineering and technical perfection.

All about the capsules

The innovative easy-to-use capsule system, exclusive to NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto®, is specifically designed to ensure that each cup of coffee you make is fresh and contains only the best Arabica roasted coffee. The airtight capsules optimise the extraction pressure for each flavour variety, delivering the best coffee quality, texture and milk froth!
Capsules are avaliable at retailers near you or via their Online Shop.